Eureka Alert!

Why Therapy Doesn’t Work for Everyone. Why Talking About It Might.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘Hmmm. That's funny...’ – Isaac Asimov

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Neurological Study of Sleep Deprivation Shows Its Link to Depression, Anxiety

The New Zealand Herald reports on what it says is the first neural investigation into the affect of sleep deprivation on the brain. It appears it activates the part of the brain that controls depression, anxiety and other brain disorders that affect thoughts and emotions. The investigation was conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Berkley.

See Scientists link lack of sleep to psychiatric disorders.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Antidepressants and Bone Loss?

SSRIs may cause bone loss in older people, according to studies at two universities. The results were published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. The link has to do with serotonin.

See Study: Antidepressants may cause bone loss.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Asthma and Anxiety Linked

This is one of several articles discussing the link between asthma and anxiety disorders. The link makes biological sense when you consider asthma is an autoimmune disorder and some anxiety disorders may have autoimmune origins in some individuals, as seen, for example, in the PANDAs research by Susan Swedo at the National Institutes of Health. However, because asthma attacks can be frightening, they can make people anxious. This does not discount the biological link, though.

See Mental Health Disorders May Make Asthma Symptoms Worse.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Can Genes Predict Response to SSRIs?

The genes thought to be involved in antidepressant effectiveness are not and many individuals do not respond well or at all to these drugs. Now two researchers are looking at genes to see who responds to antidepressants.

See UCSF Researcher Tracks Genes that Predict Response to Antidepressants.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dogs Guide Search For Panic, OCD, and Anxiety Genes

Dogs aren't immune from anxiety disorders -- which makes sense in the context of evolution -- that the symptoms of these disorders in humans are remnants of survival instincts. Now one researcher is using dogs, which are genetically less complex than humans, to locate these genes.

See Dogs Guide Search for Genes in Panic and Anxiety.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Folic Acid May Help Relieve Depression

While depression and other brain disorders have multiple origins, the link between nutrition and depression is becoming clearer. Research out of the University of York and Hull York Medical School confirms previous studies showing the low folate levels correlates with depression in some individuals. This does not mean low levels of folate cause depression. It means the two are linked. Previous research by the team showed that individuals with depression appear to have a gene that leads to folate being processed folate less efficiently. Folate plays a role in the production of serotonin and other chemicals in the brain that make you feel good. Adding folic acid to the diet, therefore, mat help people with depression. Large, controlled trials are needed to prove the effectiveness.

See Adding Folic Acid To Bread Could Help In The Fight Against Depression.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Surgery for OCD and Other Anxiety Disorders Risky

Neurosurgery is a new trend in the psychiatric community, but research in Sweden indicates caution is necessary. They found that adverse effects of neurosurgery used to treat severe obsessive compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders were more frequent than they had previously thought.

See Neurosurgical treatment of anxiety disorders effective -- but risky.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Omega 3 fatty acids and mood, personality and behavior

Findings of a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study indicates that Omega 3 fatty acids influence mood, impulsivity, and personality. See Omega 3 fatty acids influence mood, impulsivity and personality, study indicates.

Antidepressants Can Lead to Death in Heart Patients

While some heart problems can lead to depression, antidepressants may not be the answer, at least for some patients. Duke University Medical Center researchers found patients with coronary artery disease who took antidepressants were at significantly higher risk of death.

From the press release: "Even after controlling for such factors as age, degree of heart disease and severity of depression, the researchers found that heart patients taking antidepressant medications had a 55 percent higher risk of dying. Previously, Duke researchers reported that the presence of depression is an important risk factor for hear patients."

See Anti-Depressant Use Associated With Increased Risk for Heart Patients for the entire press release.

Overdiagnosing Depression

Researchers at Rutgers University and New York University offer three explanations for and warn about overdiagnosing depression. See The high percentages of depression have been greatly exaggerated.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Software Helps Those with Schizophrenia Understand Facial Expressions

Software designed to help customs officers scan the travellers' faces is being used to help people with schizophrenia recognize emotions in facial expressions, something they have difficulty doing. See Facial Recognition Software Aids Schizophrenia Sufferers to read the full article.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Paxil May Cause Birth Defects

The New York Times Reports on the drug manufacturer's report on the increased risk of taking Paxil during the first trimester of pregnanacy. See Paxil Alert for Pregnant Women.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Pregnancy and SSRIs

Many women are concerned about taking SSRIs during pregnancy. A large study several years ago was said to have demonstrated safety. However, a more recent study, reported in the New York Times, shows some risk to babies.

Machine Simulates Hallucinations

Janssen Pharmaceutica has developed a virtual reality machine that teaches empathy for individuals who experience hallucinations. Click the link below to see the story.

Officials experience schizophrenia sensations through a new virtual hallucination machine

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Breast Cancer Drug and Bipolar Disorder

The anti-cancer drug tamoxifen is currently being studied on people with bipolar disorder. The drug appears to affect protein kinase C, or PKC, which researchers think might be involved in bipolar disorder. Ultimately, if research findings are positive, researchers hope to develop a new class of quick-acting drugs. (See also my article in BP Magazine.

Schizophrenia and Infection

Offspring of women exposed to parasitic infection, toxoplasmosis, during pregnancy may be at increased risk of developing schizophrenia in adulthood says one study.

Toxoplasmosis can result from eating undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and vegetables, or drinking water contaminated with the parasite. It can also be contracted through unwashed hands after gardening or cleaning cat litter boxes.

The increased risk resulting from infection may not be due to the a specific infection, but a secondary mechanism, such as inflamation.

Brain Changes During Menstruation Linked to Anxiety/Seizures

A new UCLA study shows that changes in specific receptors in the brain can affect seizure activity and anxiety levels during the menstrual cycle. See also Menstrual Cycle May Change Women's Brains.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Strep Linked to OCD

New publicity about the suspected link between strep infection and OCD at ABC News and the New York Times.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Estrogen Levels and OCD

Researchers have linked low levels of estrogen in male mice with OCD. Compulsions were resolved with estrogen administration. See Estrogen Affects Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder for the full article.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Asthma and Allergies - Same Gene Different Expression?

A Columbia university study showed a possible genetic link between major depression and anxiety disorders in mothers and asthma and allergies in their biological offspring. See Kids’ asthma linked to mothers’ depression for the full article.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Epilepsy and Schizophrenia

A Danish study suggests that epilepsy and schizophrenia may share a genetic link or common environmental cause. See Epilepsy, Schizophrenia May Share Genetic Link for the full article.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Anticonvulsants Linked With Birth Defects

Doctors are warning women with bipolar disorder and others on anticonvulsants, specifically phenobarbitol and valproate (Depakote), of the raised risk of birth defects. They suggest discussing the possibility of switching drugs with their physicians before getting pregnant. See Epilepsy, Bipolar Drugs Carry Birth Defect Risks for the whole article.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Melatonin Agonist May Help Treat Bipolar Depression

People with bipolar disorder may get relief by adding a melatoninergic antidepressant to their drug regiment. See Melatonin Agonist Shows Benefits in Treating Bipolar Depression for the whole article.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Creating Disease to Sell Drugs

Mother Jones' assistant online editor Bradford Plumer writes in-depth about the creation of diseases by pharmaceutical companies, in large part due to the patent system, which offers a strong financial incentive to find new diseases for old drugs. Plumer also notes that the credibility of scientists who are sincerely trying to understand disease is compromised as so many of their peers are lured in by the lucrative offers of the drug companies to promote their products, whether or not patients really need them. See Licensed to Ill for the whole article.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

New NIH Studies on the Effectiveness of Psychotropic Medications to be Released

The results of federally-funded studies on drugs and brain disorders, including bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia, will soon be released and will help doctors, who have been prescribing drugs based on their own clinical experiences, rather than evidence from studies, be better able to prescribe appropriate drugs for their patients. Previous studies have only shown drug efficacy with targeted populations and do not compare the effectiveness of different drugs nor do they test the effectiveness on the many individuals with more than one brain disorder and those with severe cases. See Studies could alter treatment for depression, schizophrenia for the whole article.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Medication For Lou Gehrig’s Disease May Help People With OCD

A small study at the Yale School of Medicine hinged their research on glutamate, a neurotransmitter, using a riluzole, a glutamate modulating agent, on 13 patients with OCD. See Medication Eases OCD Symptoms.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Postpartum depression in the United States may be triggered by a low dietary intake of essential fatty acid DHA

See Fatty acid could offset postpartum depression and improve babies' development.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Causal Link Found Between Heart Disease and Depression

A UCLA imaging study shows heart failure patients with depression have significant loss of brain tissue in areas that regulate the autonomic nervous system, the same area of the brain that shows changes in people with major depression. The tissue damage interferes with the ability of the cardiovascular system to respond quickly to changes in blood pressure and heart rate, which may explain the depression link. See Heart Failure Patients Show Depression-Linked Brain Injury.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Depression Worsens Heart Disease

See Study: Depression Worsens Heart Disease.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lyme Disease, Allergies, and Brain Disorders

With spring in the air, I thought it was worth bringing to your attention two connections to brain disorders: Lyme disease and allergies.

According to researchers at Columbia University in New York, in their report, Lyme disease: a neuropsychiatric illness, they state that “A broad range of psychiatric reactions have been associated with Lyme disease including paranoia, dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, major depression, anorexia nervosa, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Depressive states among patients with late Lyme disease are fairly common, ranging across studies from 26% to 66%.” (See also Psychiatric manifestations of Lyme borreliosis.)

In their recently published article, “Allergy, Depression, and Suicide” (Directions in Psychiatry; Hatherleigh), Drs. Teodor T. Postolache (University of Maryland School of Medicine), Hirsh D. Komarow (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health), John W. Stiller (University of Maryland School of Medicine), and Leonardo Tonelli (University of Maryland School of Medicine ) wrote about the reported association between allergies and depression and a possible connection between allergy and suicide.

In it they discuss their hypothesis “that biological environmental factors that result in inflammation and cytokine release at the level of the respiratory mucosa could trigger depression and suicide. These factors include viruses, bacteria, allergens, and pollution particles…” The researchers also discuss the causal relationship between depression/suicidal ideation and cytokine treatment and/or other immunotherapy.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation for Treating Depression and Other Brain Disorders

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may be more tolerable and safer to administer than electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to treat depression, schizophrenia, and other brain disorders that affect thoughts and emotions. See News on Therapies for Depression Using Magnetic Stimulation of the Brain.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cells in Nose May Shed Light on Brain Disorders

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and collaborating institutions found altered nerve cell function in olfactory receptor neurons – those that transmit smell – in patients with bipolar disorder. Because these cells share many characteristics with nerve cells in the brain, making these smell cells useful models for studying the neural effects of brain disorders that affect thoughts and emotions. See Olfactory receptor cells may provide clues to psychiatric disease.

EEG Responses to Sound – A new diagnostic took for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder?

Brains of individuals with schizophrenia react more strongly to noise in EEG responses than do their healthy counterparts. The Liverpool research team will examine the brains of people with bipolar disorder to see if their responses differ from those with schizophrenia, which may help to differentiate the two disorders from the onset of symptoms. The two disorders have overlapping symptoms, but different medications are necessary for effective treatment. See A sound diagnosis for brain disorder and Research team develops new test for diagnosing schizophrenia.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Nutrional Supplement May Help With Depression

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers found that adding a specific nutritional supplement to a standard antidepressant may help individuals who have not responded to single-drug treatment for clinical depression. The nutritional supplement, SAMe (S-Adenosy-L-Methionine), is a substance found in every human cell and is a commonly used dietary supplement. See Small study shows SAMe may improve treatment of depression.

Prenatal Exposure to Famine Linked with Increased Risk of Schizophrenia

Several studies support the assertion that malnutrition during fetal development and childhood affect risk of developing schizophrenia in adulthood. See Prenatal Exposure to Famine Tied to Increased Schizophrenia Risk and Researchers Find Nutrition-Schizophrenia Link.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Infection Connection

“A number of chronic human illnesses are triggered, either directly or indirectly, by microorganisms,” says Ronald Luftig of the Louisiana State University Medical Center, one of the authors of the report, Microbial Triggers of Chronic Human Illness. In this report, Luftig links infection to psychiatric illnesses. “…Researching the causes of these chronic illnesses, infectious or otherwise, will lead to the development of therapies, cures and strategies for prevention that will affect the lives of millions of individuals,” he says.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Possible Alternative to Exposure Therapy May Reduce Anxiety Without Heightening It

Many therapists who practice exposure therapy want to elicit as much anxiety from their patients as possible as a way to desensitize them to that which causes them extreme anxiety. Therapists often refuse to give their patients rational explanations for why exposures to their feared situations or items will not cause them harm because, they say, it could reduce their anxiety and lessen the results of the treatment. For many patients, the anxiety is too much to bare. The question I have is, is this the best approach? Ultimately, how does it leave patients down the road? And what about the many patients who simply cannot endure the heightened levels of anxiety? There is another method -- Danger Ideation Reduction Therapy, or DIRT for short, where education by experts, exactly the opposite of what’s being commonly touted by behavioralists, has helped most patients significantly by reducing their fears rathering than increasing them. This approach needs to be tested on larger numbers of patients to see if it is truly effective, but it appears to have the added benefit of involving the patient’s intellect, which seems useful considering that what makes anxiety a disorder is its inappropriateness, or irrationality.

See Danger Ideation Reduction Therapy (DIRT) for treatment-resistant compulsive washing and Treating obsessive compulsive disorder: a new role for infectious diseases physicians?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Paxil May Cause Birth Defects

The New York Times Reports on the drug manufacturer's report on the increased risk of taking Paxil during the first trimester of pregnanacy.

Paxil Alert for Pregnant Women